I’m Rob, Brand Ambassador for Rathfinny. I’m the new kid on the block (wine pun) as I’ve only been in the role for two months, but I already feel very much part of the Rathfinny family.
People ask me what a Brand Ambassador does. In a nutshell, it’s about creating a buzz around the brand, making top Sommeliers drool in anticipation of our sparkling launch in 2018. Then it’s setting the strategy, whipping the distributor into shape and promoting, to become the most successful English sparkling on the market.
As part of my induction I took part in the vintage, to immerse myself in the winemaking process. I was lucky enough to stay at Rathfinny’s majestic Flint Barns; a building that really needs its own blog post. I’d done a vintage in South Australia years ago, living in a caravan on site, fighting off giant spiders. Surely I’d be a natural?
The first day’s Pinot Noir picking was challenging. My Ralph Lauren jacket had never been so wet, so I swiftly borrowed a full waterproof outfit. Looking like a psychotic fisherman, I got chatting to the picking team. I was intrigued by their backgrounds and by what had brought them here. Many were staying at the Flint Barns, so I got to know them over the course of the harvest.
Rachel had been a Wig Mistress (great title) for 14 years at major theatres in the West End. She’d worked with everyone from Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller through to Tom Hiddleston and Maureen Lipman. One day she’d attended a gardening show, and after spending her entire time in the wine section realised it was her calling.
Eilidh is at Edinburgh Uni, doing her dissertation on notions of ‘place’ and the role this plays in connection with English Sparkling wine. I can’t wait to read Eilidh’s paper, as notions of ‘terroir’ and ‘place’ are tricky concepts to grasp, particularly as it strays into the ‘spiritual’ arena.
Another picker was John, a British guy working in finance who decided to move to Sweden with his girlfriend earlier this year. He was chatting to the ladies at the Gunroom earlier this year, who suggested he apply to take part in harvest, which he did.
Before ‘grape-pickers hand’ set in, I was whisked off to the winery where I did my best to help Head Winemaker Jonathan and Assistant Winemaker, Will. I got involved in everything, from tank cleaning, hauling giant hose-pipes, transferring juice and adding yeast for fermentation. I donned a lab coat for grape sampling; testing sugar, PH and acidity content. I learnt that 8am – 11:30pm days are pretty standard, these guys work hard!
From picking gapes, pressing, racking and transferring the juice through to inoculation, I had a full hand in the winemaking process. Was I a natural? Not sure, but I gained an invaluable insight into Rathfinny, which I’ll remember vividly when I’m chatting up Sommeliers. With the grape crop due to increase significantly year on year, I can’t wait to take part in many more harvests to come!